South West Wales

Cancer patient suffered due to diagnosis delay, report says

Medical equipment Image copyright Science Photo Library
Image caption The patient should have been given an MRI scan when he was first admitted, the ombudsman said

A cancer patient suffered "unnecessarily" because a hospital failed to diagnose his condition soon enough, an ombudsman's report has said.

The 59-year-old man went to Morriston Hospital, Swansea, complaining of back pain and blurred vision in February 2012, but was sent home after a week.

Tests later revealed he had cancer, and he died in March 2012.

Abertawe Bro Morgannwg University Health Board has apologised to his family for shortcomings in his care.


The patient - named in the report as Mr B - was seen at the emergency department at Morriston where he reported a build-up of lower back pain over several weeks, adding that he had lost weight and his appetite.

He went home the same night but was admitted to hospital the next day.

A consultant considered appendicitis as a possible cause before the patient was discharged a few days later with painkillers and other medication.

The man's family reported he felt no better, and he was re-admitted to Morriston Hospital the following week.

An X ray showed he had a spinal fracture and other tests including MRI scans indicated he had cancer.

The man was given spinal surgery to relieve his back pain but his condition deteriorated, and he died six weeks after he was first seen at the hospital.

Acting Ombudsman Prof Margaret Griffiths upheld a complaint by Mr B's daughter about the care provided for her father by Abertawe Bro Morgannwg University Health Board (ABM).

She did not think Mr B died any sooner as a result of the failings, but was concerned that staff at Morriston failed to spot the "red flags" when they first admitted him.

"It seems to me that it should, at the very least, have completed an MRI scan during that admission," she said.

"The Health Board's initial failure to investigate Mr B's condition properly delayed an accurate diagnosis and triggered his improper discharge."

Care improvements

Prof Griffiths said she was also concerned about patient handling, pain management, and how Mr B's personal needs were assessed, and urged the board to examine arrangements and training in such areas.

In a statement, ABM said: "We wish to apologise sincerely to the family of this patient for the shortcomings in his care, and the distress this has caused.

"Triaging patients effectively and providing adequate and timely pain relief are extremely important, and we have since taken significant steps to improve these aspects of our care."

The ombudsman also ordered the board to pay Mr B's daughter a nominal sum of £1,500 in recognition of the "significant distress" that its failings caused.

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